This article originally appeared on the FOCUS blog.
Figuring out which tasks to do first each day can be one of the most complex and time-consuming parts of your day. Many employees get to the office each morning, then spend valuable time searching through their projects, trying to figure out where they should begin.
Rather than working your way down your email list, or tackling problems as they appear, if you want to achieve genuine results, you’ll need a technique for task prioritization.
There are many options out there, from the MIT method to the Eisenhower matrix. Today, we’re going to explore three of the simplest and most engaging choices for beginners.
Let’s get started.
#1 The GTD Strategy (Getting Things Done)
The GTD strategy is a popular strategy for a lot of entrepreneurs and dedicated professionals. This process allows you to efficiently organize your tasks and keep track of what you need to get done so that you can reduce the stress of unfinished and pending tasks.
The concept was first introduced by David Allen in 2001, and it focuses on finishing the open loops in your workplace. For instance, instead of focusing on one task for 25 minutes and jumping to another when that first task is still incomplete, you concentrate on finishing the entire project.
You’ll start by picking the most distracting task that is “incomplete” in your to-do list. Start working on that task, and make sure that you keep focusing it until you feel comfortable saying that it’s “complete”. After that, you can pick the next project to focus on.
To make the most out of the GTD method:
- Record everything: With a tool like MeisterTask, you can keep track of everything that needs to be done in your business on a given day or week. Due to the setup of projects and tasks, to-dos can be broken down into manageable pieces so that, one by one, things are completed. This will help you to ensure that you don’t lose track of any unfinished work.
- Jump into work immediately: Don’t just put things off because you get bored of whatever you’re doing, keep working until you reach your goals.
- Make reminders: Ensure that you have alerts and reminders in place that show you which projects you need to work on first. If you have a hard time doing this with Agenda, try using MeisterTask’s Google Calendar integration to see your tasks represented as calendar events.
- Keep track of your accomplishments: As well as tracking what you need to do, track what you get done too. This will help to keep you motivated. Try leaving finished tasks in a Done section or creating a section on your Agenda where you can see what you’ve accomplished in a given period of time.
The GTD method is an excellent choice for people who have a hard time with procrastinating. You might also benefit from this strategy if you find that you struggle to decide which task you should be working on first.
#2 The Pomodoro Technique
The central premise of the Pomodoro strategy is that you divide all of your tasks for the day into sections of 25 minutes. These intervals are “Pomodoro’s”. You leave 5 minutes between each interval, giving you time to move from one task to the next.
You don’t have to stick specifically to 25-minute intervals if that doesn’t work for you. Instead, you could choose 30 minutes or 40. The point is that having time limits will incite a sense of urgency for you to get tasks done as quickly and efficiently as you can.
To make the most of the Pomodoro technique:
- Organize your tasks: Know which projects need to be completed first based on deadlines and urgency. You can also organize your tasks based on when you know you’re the most productive, such as first thing in the morning. In MeisterTask, this means setting up your Agenda in the most logical and effective way possible.
- Have a timer: Set a Pomodoro timer to keep you working according to your assigned pace. You can set this up directly in MeisterTask.
- Give yourself the right amount of break-time: Sometimes, your brain will need longer to refresh after a complicated task. In that case, you may need 10 or 15 minutes instead of 5.
The Pomodoro method is best-suited to anyone who has a hard time jumping straight into big tasks. This strategy helps to break your projects down into something more manageable and less likely to cause unnecessary burnout.
#3 The Eat the Frog Method
The ‘eat the frog’ method, otherwise known as doing the worst thing first, involves putting the tasks you hate the most at the top of your to-do list.
When you’re planning your day, it’s tempting to avoid the most difficult or time-consuming tasks as much as possible.
However, this often means that you end up procrastinating on those projects until the last minute. The famous ‘eat the frog’ technique encourages you to get the unwanted tasks done first so that everything that comes after it feels much simpler.
To begin with the ‘eat the frog method’, write a list of all the tasks that you need to do in the day, highlighting the tasks that you don’t want to do, but need to do, and the tasks that you do want to do. You can even track down some projects that you might be able to delegate to someone else in your team. If you choose to use this method, you can even rearrange your Agenda to reflect it.
Once you’ve organized your list, place the task that you’re most reluctant to do at the very top of your list and get it finished first. The sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that you feel will help to carry you through the rest of the day.
To make the most of the ‘eat the frog’ method:
- Make sure that you remove any tasks from your list that don’t actually need to be done. These are tasks that are unnecessary or can be delegated elsewhere.
- Focus on high-value activities that you don’t want to do first. This will give you more of a sense of accomplishment.
- Try to avoid putting too many high-value but time-consuming tasks into the beginning of each day. This will help you to maintain your motivation a little better.
The ‘eat the frog’ method generally works best for people who tend to avoid hard or challenging tasks wherever they can. If you find that you usually put off the most challenging things on your to-do list and regret it later, then this could be the method for you.
Learning How to Prioritize
Ultimately, learning how to prioritize your daily tasks into a to-do list that can guide you through your day is one of the best ways to boost productivity.
Having a path to follow each day ensures that you get the most important tasks done on time and make the most of the brainpower that you have.
If you’re not sure which method will work best for you, consider experimenting with a few different strategies before you settle for one.
This article originally appeared on the FOCUS blog.